Isabelle McGuire

Week two is coming to end and I’ve spent the majority of the time consuming books, lectures, films and music I never had the time to before. I’ve had so much room to think and I’m solidifying my ideas. I’ve really grounded my decision to stay in Chicago. 

I am using this opportunity as a reset for my career. I was stagnating at a job I hated. Feeling bogged down by trying to be something other then just being what I wanted to be. I was trying to make money but sacrificed a year of my time for something I don’t care much about. Thinking about going to back home, I’m going to find a job that gives me more time but might pay less. There is such a huge amount of pressure on artist to participate in the art world in a specific way in order to be validated for the work they do and I’m training myself to ignore that while I’m here. I started working on this series called “For the kitchen”. I’m trying to make these in the same way I would make music. Not thinking too much but making decisions based on intuition and letting things click into place. At the same time im working on Spontaneous Generation a show that’s been in the works for about half a year. I have been collecting a lot of dead cicadas for the upcoming pieces and will attach photos when the piece is dry. Hurricane Florence could hit us but the weather so far has been amazing. When we went to Kroger a few days ago all of the bread and water was gone. I’ve spent a lot of time outside and am covered in mosquito bites. Everything has been extremely lovely here but I am starting to miss Kevin. 

Two pieces attached in the image: the first one is titled “For the Kitchen: Annihilation” which is made of cardboard sporks, spoons, sugar, and Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1) (Movie Tie-In Edition).

The second pic is titled : For the Kitchen (A cicada leans into your ear and whispers ‘I’ve shed my skin for you, you lovely.” He hangs on your ear by his front arms. “Take me by your tongue and let me sing in your cheek. I’ll crouch behind your teeth and echo in your throat.”) 

Materials: cicadas, kitchen utensils, and imitation water to seal it. 

Sylvie Hayes-Wallace

Since being at Alternative Worksite I have been working on making big paper-mache sculptures, reading a lot (Maud Lavin on violence and aggression in girls and sports, a series of collected essays on domestic interiors and the relationship to interiority, John Berger on the representation of women in art history, and some of Agnes Martin’s writings on solitude and space), and enjoying all of my time alone to think and document my thoughts. I have been trying to take my time and not rush when making. I have found myself working best with materials when it is dark and all of the other residents are asleep. 

Sunday evening was the first colder day. Everyone in the house seems to be more internal and working to themselves now that we are in the second week and the weather is cooler. I really like all of the residents and feel really lucky that we have a great group. We have begun weekly group rituals to go along with our weekly dinners. Last week we had a reading, and beginning this week we set up a weekly screening where each week a different resident chooses a film to show to the group. These moments of sharing our thoughts and research with one another is really nice here. 

I have been taking the time to think about my work with a bit of distance and really listen to myself while I am working. I found an amazing lavender bush on a walk the other night and grabbed a bunch to mix into my sand and paper-mache. I am loving the material nuances here, like how the “play sand” you buy at Home Depot is finer and has more of a red pigment than the “play sand” in Chicago. I like how the specificity of the materials I use here will last in the work that I make here, and that Roanoke will continue in them even after I am no longer here. It feels very moody in a good way to be making and thinking here, I keep thinking “Virginia Cowgirl”.

Jessi Baumsteiger

My days in the studio are changing as we come close to the end of the residency. I’m usually awake early but I find myself in the now crisp mornings with my feet
under the blankets for a while before I can force them onto the chilly floor. Having come from LA, I welcome this cold, it is a treat to have to bundle up.  

 During the last couple of weeks at Alternative Worksite, I have become evening worker, noticing that many of my more potent ideas emerge as the sun goes down. Rather
than fight this way of working I’m adjusting my days to spend even more time in the studio, sometimes working from 2 p.m.- 2 a.m. 

I’ve been working on a series of paintings that depict strange landscapes. Within the paintings are references to natural elements such as landscapes, birds, the deep ocean, and the sky at various times of the day. I begin by first creating what I call a still life, using cardboard, homemade play dough, and colored pencils. I build miniature mountains out of cardboard and paint the play dough on using a palette knife, once the play dough hardens I define certain areas with colored pencils. By incorporating these materials the paintings are embedded with a childlike way of making. I then use the play dough mountain as a unique still life to work from for the oil paintings. The paintings are intense gradients of blues, reds, and greens producing for the viewer an uneasy feeling - a landscape from a science fiction movie perhaps. The color and place are forced together into one composition resulting in a mashup of familiar and alien, an
altered world. 

I am also working on a project using an old medicine cabinet from the house. The cabinet was found in the basement and put outside to be picked up/removed from the residency. Andrea and I decided we should create something with it as it was a part of the home’s history. Andrea returned to Ohio soon after this decision so the inside of the cabinet is now covered in play dough and filled with braided canvas balls - another miniature scene from an altered world. 

There was a large pastel covered unstretched piece of canvas hanging in my studio since mid October. Also sitting in my studio were canvas cutouts of seagulls covered in pastel and/or oil paint. The seagulls derive from my time at my school in Los Angeles where between classes you shared walkways with these birds. I cross
stitched the cutouts of the seagulls onto the canvas using only one or two cross stitches for each bird. Eventually, some of the birds will move or hang in a less graceful manner changing the overall tone of the work, much like the paintings. 

As my time here comes to a close I feel sad to part with this home, the residents, and the friends I’ve made during my time here. However, I am so grateful that I
was able to have this experience. I have built a body of work that I can continue to grow for the months or years to come. This residency has provided one of the greatest gifts for an artist - a chance to participate in the challenges of endless studio time and the opportunity push far beyond personal boundaries.

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